Get ready for a very active hurricane season, as researchers are forecasting there could be nine coming this year.
Since 2014, a team at the University of Arizona has accurately predicted hurricane activity in the U.S.
Typically, the Gulf and East coast see roughly seven hurricanes annually, with less than half being major events, but researchers this year are warning that five of the nine are expected to be major. Major hurricanes are those classified as Category 3 or higher, where wind speeds clock in at up to 150 miles per hour.
“People should get prepared,” said lead researcher Xubin Zeng, a professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences. “This will be a very active hurricane season. That’s our message.”
Compared to the last two decades, last year was a lax hurricane season, with just two major hurricanes hitting the continental U.S. However, Hurricane Ian, which battered Florida last fall, was the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.
A convergence of major storms does not bode well for marginalized communities that struggle in the aftermath of disasters. Following Hurricane Ian, Capital B highlighted Black communities left behind by the federal disaster recovery process. Similarly, residents in Louisiana have struggled to recover from storms, some that occurred nearly three years ago.
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This year’s prediction was dependent on hotter ocean temperatures and rising sea levels, which have created ideal conditions for stronger hurricanes to form. Researchers are unsure which ocean, the Pacific or the Atlantic, will most significantly influence hurricanes this year.
Researchers hope that with an early alert system to this year’s onslaught of storms, residents will be better prepared to evacuate or withstand the storms’ surges. There are several ways to prepare early, such as learning preferred evacuation routes out of your city, having “go bags” prepared with essential items, and creating a rainy day fund for the fees associated with evacuation.
However, as past disasters have made evident, hurricanes often pick up steam quickly, making it hard for disadvantaged communities — especially those without access to reliable transportation or funds for hotel rooms — to evacuate.
“We saw [with Hurricane Ida in 2021] that the evacuation determination is a multifaceted decision. It’s not any one person’s or entity or localities decision, and it entails a lot of resources,” said Arthur Johnson, chief executive of Lower Nine Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, a nonprofit organization that supports New Orleans’ predominately Black Lower 9th Ward.
Additionally, many people make the active decision to stay behind because of the connections they have to their homes and the belief that they have the community resources to withstand storms. In March, Capital B interviewed a handful of hurricane victims in Louisiana who decided not to evacuate during hurricanes Laura and Ida because they did not perceive the record-breaking storms to be as disastrous as they were. Ida and Laura were the two strongest storms to hit Louisiana since 1856, with the storms taking more than 65 lives and causing more than $75 billion in damage.
Capital B has reached out to FEMA for a comment.
The University of Arizona researchers will update their predictions one final time in June, at the advent of hurricane season, which typically lasts to November. In June, forecasters will use a combination of their forecasting model and observational data from March through May to confirm their analysis.